From my very first inkling of interest, one of the reasons I loved oil painting was the process. Every single artist I took a workshop with began by painting the darks first. They all said: get in as many darks as possible, learn to mix deep darks well, all dark colors combined make the darks rich, stay in the darks for a long time before you move on in a painting.

The lights were saved until the very end.

I still have the problem of rushing to get to the lights. I want the punch line too quickly. Yet, it’s true, it’s the darks that make a painting, They give the painting depth, and when I don’t like my work, it is usually that I have skimped on the darks and rushed the lights.

The lights have little impact unless there are darks to provide a contrast.

Take a look:

These are from Nancy Crookson’s demo a few years ago.

Nancy began with a dark line drawing.

She then got a good rich dark all around her subject.

She began to add darks into the hair, chin line, neck, eye sockets and the nose. 
She told us the nose is almost always completely dark, one large shadow. 
I have found in painting I am afraid of the darks. I remember from Nancy's demo, 
I kept wanting her to hurry up - get to the good stuff.

And then she began her midtones - hair and cheeks and the contours of the face. 
And finally she added the pop - the lips, the earring, dots in the eyes 
and the very tip of the nose.

Worth waiting for, right?

And here is my meager attempt at copying Jenny Schultz’s boat:

My line drawing. Leaving some darks in the toning of the canvas. 
Placing in the Scripture.

Getting in the darks in the bow, stern line, and in the boat's shadow.

Keeping it dark with an even darker line from the bow tip into the water. 
This is pretty much finished except for the boat's reflection and the highlights.

A big difference with the red reflection and the lights on bow and stern


What I love the most is how this process in oil panting is also a life process.

God begins with our darks.

We want to escape the dark and leave it behind as fast as possible. But in the dark times – there is our depth. There is the beginning of our story, what we came from. If we were light from the beginning we would not have much need for light or have much of a story.

Our story is the contrast. Our delight is the constant surprise of what emerges from the dark.

Are you afraid of the darks in your life? The dark times, the sin, the times we would rather forget?

I am. I admit, I don’t like to ‘go there’, certainly not linger there. Sometimes the darks in my life pop back uninvited into my memory. They tend to keep me up at night, they often weigh me down. I am learning, rather than pushing them aside and back into the shadows, to let them sit while I quietly reflect.

For me, the road to peace is to remember and repent.

These days, I will travel back in my heart and mind and camp out for awhile, even if it is painful. I have asked God for a soft heart, one that easily repents (a blog post for another day). I am learning to be grateful and filled with hope because of the contrast, because of the light. Because I know The Light of the World.

You and I, scaredy cats that we may be, we don’t have to stay in the dark, linger there for too long, or continue to go back over and again. Yet I have come to believe we have to know that there was a “there”, to admit our sin, to stare it down with Jesus by our side. It’s not a bad thing to know our darks and wrestle with them. The dark times in our lives hold great value if they brought us to The Light.

He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light. Job 12:22

And here’s the punch line: God is light. That’s the real story, the best story, our story with a new beginning.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. I John 1:5